While many live events are being cancelled due to restrictions for in-person gatherings, Concept continues to showcase their achievements and successes by hosting virtual competitions. Similar to Velocity’s virtual Fund Pitch Competition (VFPC), Concept pivoted two of their major in-person events to video submissions which garnered more than one hundred applicants combined. Audiences were then invited to virtually attend each event where a panel of local startup founders scored and selected the final winners.

The Concept $5K grant supports undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Waterloo who have creative, technological ideas.

Concept also unveiled their Pandemic Challenge Fund where Waterloo students could participate in virtual workshops and connect with innovation coaches. Afterwards, these students had the opportunity to develop and pitch their ideas at the Pandemic Challenge Fund to potentially receive $3,000 in funding support.

Meet Concept’s latest recipients.

Concept’s $5K Fund winners

Below are four winning teams who successfully pitched their business idea and received $5,000 in funds to support their startup companies.

Aqua-Cell Energy

Aqua-Cell Energy is revolutionizing affordable, large scale batteries that uses saltwater to store renewable energy for continuous solar and wind power. The company’s target audience focuses on small industrial facilities who already have solar panels installed. By using Aqua-Cell Energy, these companies can expect to save energy costs during the night.

Its founder, Keith Cleland, is a master’s student in Chemical Engineering. Cleland is working alongside two mentors — Waterloo professor, Jeff Gostick, and Anne Benneker, who is also a Chemical Engineering professor at the University of Calgary. Aqua-Cell Energy highlights a collaborative team effort between both universities.

By December 2021, Aqua-Cell Energy hopes to use the $5,000 fund to move forward with the pilot system in developing these larger scale batteries that can store renewable energy and produce clean electricity.

Eight Stories of Modesty

Eight Stories of Modesty is a Hijab brand that combines fashion and storytelling. The brand provides a platform for Muslim women to have their voices heard while catering to their modern fashion needs. Its female founder, Tamania Majeed, is an Accounting and Financial Management student.

In every collection launch, the brand releases eight high quality, affordable headscarves — ranging from $13 to $15 — with a diverse colour and material palette. The brand aims to create a special and meaningful experience for its customers. Each headscarf in the collection comes with a unique story written by a Muslim woman highlighting their journey wearing a Hijab.

Eight Stories of Modesty hopes to partner with social media Influencers who can promote the pieces to their followers and have them featured on their platform. In less than a year, the fashion storytelling brand has sold 350 headscarves. Majeed also hopes to use the $5,000 fund to market a third collection, launch a website and onboard a team to expand the Eight Stories of Modesty brand.

Lumos

Lumos is an interdisciplinary team of doctors and engineers looking to improve human well-being through sleep technology and neuroscience. It’s co-founder, Lucas Wen Tang, is a Mechanical Engineering student.

The company is developing light therapy glasses which combine blue blocking effects with the activity light therapy of a light lamp. The technology is compatible with prescription lenses and sunglasses. Lumos uses the solution of bright light therapy to accelerate a person’s circadian rhythm (a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours). By exposing the user to bright light exposure as soon as they wake up and wearing the technology throughout the day, users will feel more awake, sooner, and helps them fall asleep at night.

After launching the LumosLux, the company’s first pair of light therapy glasses, Lumos was named the hottest startup company to watch at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The team hopes to expand their brand in the market by partnering with influencers and celebrities who can promote their product.

moxHealth

moxHealth is a biotechnology company that aims to empower women by developing a convenient and easy-to-use transdermal patch to detect female ovulation. Its female co-founder, Lawrentina D’Souza, is a fourth-year Biotechnology and Business.

The company offers accurate and easy to understand results, continuous monitoring, seamless use that is convenient for any lifestyle and affordable. After a woman’s menstrual cycle, the patch is applied to a woman’s abdomen where they will continue to wear it for a couple of days. Through the solution of colourimetric patch technology, the patch will change color during peak days where hormone levels are highest and indicating the ovulation period.

The team aims to enter the market by partnering with physicians and fertility clinics to promote their product. The company’s second marketing goal is to have the product available in stores in tandem with insurance reimbursements strategy.

moxHealth is hoping to use the $5,000 fund to de-risk their technology with prototyping, patents, fundraising and potentially meet their technical milestones within their five-stage development process.

Concept’s Pandemic Challenge Fund winners

Decomp

Decomp is an organic plastic waste disposal solution that utilizes custom bioreactor technology and plastic-degrading microbes to dispose of plastics in weeks as opposed to the 400 to 1,000 years that plastics normally take to degrade.

“Due to health concerns associated with the current pandemic, we’re seeing a surge in single-use plastics from masks to gloves to take-away containers,” Gabriel Saunders says, one of the founders at Decomp. “Not all plastics are recyclable and only plastics with a low threshold of contamination can be recycled.”

The team aims to enable material recovery facilities (MRFs) to achieve their diversion rate mandates. Through their solution, Decomp empowers material recovery facilities (MRFs) with the ability to naturally degrade non-recyclable and contaminated plastics, diverting them from landfills.

Its interdisciplinary team of master students comprise of three different backgrounds — biochemistry, marketing and chemical engineering — all from the University of Waterloo. Co-founders, Gabriel Saunders and Tooba Mohtsham, are students in the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program. Caleb Seward, a master's student in Chemical Engineering, is also an essential member of the team. The $3,000 from the pandemic challenge will be used to help fund Decomp’s first prototype.

OpenMeal

OpenMeal is a company that supports local restaurants and individuals who were impacted by COVID-19. Its diverse team involves Waterloo student, Iris Guo, an undergraduate in Accounting and Financial Management.

“During the pandemic, over 50 per cent of all Chinese restaurants have closed their doors due to discrimination,” Iris Guo says, product lead at OpenMeal. “On the other hand, food banks are being overwhelmed with a record-height of 14 per cent unemployment rate due to massive layoffs and low-income households suffered the most.”

OpenMeal’s mission is to bridge the gap between food-insecure individuals and financially stricken restaurants. Donors will be able to donate to a universal pool which will then be equally distributed to partner restaurants, while Diners will be given $20 meal credits to purchase meals from a restaurant of their choice through the OpenMeal website. The $3,000 fund will help provide 300 meals to support the widespread issue of food-insecurity.

OpenRace

OpenRace is the first real-time virtual running app that allows users connect and find motivation from other runners. While event organizers have the opportunity to increase revenue, reach a larger audience and provide a more interactive online race through the use of the OpenRace app.

Due to the pandemic, around 40,000 running events were cancelled in the United States alone. Meanwhile, businesses may go bankrupt without the additional support in the event of more cancellations in 2021.

“OpenRace is creating a feature specifically for event organizers. Where runners will check into the event just like would at an in-person race, enter the event page, press play, wait for the countdown to hit zero and run,” Matthew Cianci says, Co-founder and CEO of OpenRace, and a Management Engineering student.

Through the app, runners will receive updates during the race on the status of their position, pace, distance and time. According to Cianci, the $3,000 fund will help with product development to reach their nearby goals and further support event organizers.